The ARTS=SUCCESS: 17th Annual Principals’ Luncheon – by Cindy Balistreri
Each year, more than 200 people, principals and community members from arts and cultural organizations, gather to celebrate public schools’ achievements in arts education as well as the strong partnership between the Sarasota County school district and the community. This year the luncheon took place in the beautiful Van Wezel Foyer and featured an exhibit of student art from local high schools and art created for the Embracing Our Differences/World Rowing Championships.
The Arts Education Task Force chair, Nancy Roucher, welcomed everyone and thanked major sponsors Gerri Aaron, The Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, and Mattison’s. She also explained that the theme for this year’s luncheon, The ARTS=SUCCESS, focused on the renewed emphasis in the school district on making sure that all students are career and/or college ready when they graduate from high school. The program highlighted many important issues in arts education and college/career readiness:
- A report on the status of Arts Education in Our Schools presented by Angela Hartvigsen, Fine Arts Program Specialist, and Brian Hersh, Any Given Child Program Director.
- A student presentation written and performed by Booker Middle School theatre students focused on how the arts impact them in school…in their past, present, and future. They were guided in this presentation by their theatre teacher, Carrie Mills, and Kelli Maldonado, Director of Education and Community Outreach at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
- An inspiring musical performance by Booker Middle School student, Marielena Savino.
- A video presentation narrated by Jim Shirley, Executive Director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance, featuring four successful business leaders. Each leader gave details about how a particular art form inspired them to achieve in their field of endeavor as well as improve their lives. Honored business leaders included Dr. Alissa Shulman; Judge Charles Williams; Jennifer Putnam, Southwest Florida Regional Vice President, Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate; and Javi Suarez, Architect.
- All school principals were recognized for their schools’ achievements in arts education through the “Points of Pride” featured in a video presentation and listed in the program. Additionally, principals and central school district administrators received gifts from the community: tickets to see Motown the Musical at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and a presentation holder for notes featuring EdExploreSRQ.com, a website managed by the school district and supported by The Patterson Foundation.
Note: EdExploreSRQ.com was one of the first initiatives of The Patterson Foundation, and was created to help schools, teachers, and administrators connect more easily with the outstanding arts and cultural opportunities in our community available for students. All of the opportunities, called “Explorations,” are listed and updated on the website by the organizations and teaching artists. Each one is closely aligned to the Florida curriculum standards in Language Arts, Social Studies, Mathematics, Science, and the Arts. Funding for participation in Explorations is supported by the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, and The Patterson Foundation. Hundreds of thousands of students participate each year in hands-on, experiential learning experiences at various community sites and their school campuses.
At the end of the luncheon, Dr. Laura Kingsley, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, responded passionately with her thanks to the principals for their commitment to excellent education and to the community for its ongoing partnership that seeks to improve education in the arts and other subjects. This amazing partnership is envied by other school districts – one that is unique to Sarasota County and recognized at the state and national levels. Bravo to our school district and to our community for collaborating to bring excellence in learning to all of our schools!